Stay Ahead Of The SEO Curve: Google’s Mobile-First Index Explained
April 14, 2017
For over a year now, since Mobilegeddon update arrived, Google has had SEO industry radically change the way we used to strategize our campaigns. Mobile First Index came into being at Pubcon when Gary Illyes explained that 85% search results are now optimized for mobile and more than 50% searches on Google are now coming from mobile devices.
And it makes sense too. Studies have shown that people, especially ‘power users’ prefer to browse their internet on the go. And with the evolution of smartphone technology and competitiveness in mobile data segment, it is a piece of cake that Google couldn’t just afford to ignore.
Since then, almost 6 months have passed and SEO industry has been busy recalibrating their strategy for what lies ahead – a Split of Google’s Search Index.
Splitting of index would also mean parting of ways for the traffic that a brand could earlier garner through their website. What this also means is that – if you are not ready for Google’s Mobile First Index – you are potentially risking your website’s performance on Search Engines.
At Clixlogix, we have been actively consulting our clients to ensure that as this Google update takes over as an important Search Ranking Factor – a robust “Mobile First” strategy is in action for all of them.
A few pretty interesting scenarios came into light, that we feel are worth mentioning in this post:-
What about websites that rely on M dot versions?
Several businesses are still relying on m dot version to serve a stripped-down copy of their website to users who are accessing their websites via a mobile device. Several eCommerce clients that we work with rely on 3rd party cart software for their operations which are still a little behind on coming up with a mobile first strategy.
Even though Gary Illyes on Twitter gave such site owners some hope.
It makes sense for such business owners to immediately upgrade their websites to a responsive solution that is much more mobile oriented so that once this mobile first index starts being Google’s first priority they already have sufficient mobile content indexed.
What about HTML optimization for mobile version of websites?
By nature, mobile version of website is a ‘lite-version’ to ensure that data consumption on mobile networks, which are mostly metered, is at a minimum. This also means that the UX design sacrifices a LOT of HTML elements that are otherwise plenty on Desktop. This results in a loss of several on page SEO elements on the mobile version of website.
Does this mean SEOs now need to do their on-page SEO checks 2 times? One for desktop and one for mobile?
Here is what Google has to say about it
Sounds like a pretty thorough Mobile Site Audit is soon going to be a normal in SEO industry. Before you starting working on an account – it would make a perfect sense to foray into the mobile side of things for a website and ensure that all the HTML is well optimized for the keywords that you are gunning for on Search Results.
This would be a shift from the usual Google Mobile Friendly Tool check that was pretty much standard exercise that SEOs relied on to assessing a website’s performance on mobile devices.
How to tweak Mobile content for better UX and Search Rankings at the same time?
Several of our clients who are in service industry rely on long form content to explain their offerings to their customers. Often this is complimented by HD images etc which are seldom offered ‘as-is’ on the mobile version of such websites.
Compromising content on mobile version of website is a regular norm as it keeps the page load at a reasonable limit. However, its impact on Search Result is going to be a raging question again which was well answered on Twitter by Gary again.
Gives a spin to a lot of elements that currently seem unquestionable as they were earlier.
However now, definitely, would need a tweaking to ensure Google mobilebots are able to crawl through ‘relevant’ content on your mobile site. Especially when it comes to adjust the canonical tags and re-alt tags for your mobile and desktop content.
If you are concerned as to how to check what version of your website is being Fetched and Rendered by Google – you can use the Google Search Console and specify UserAgent as mobile:smartphone to preview it & tweak it as needed to enhance your UX.
On mobile, will speed still be a ranking factor? How would that work?
One of our client who runs a Photography Business in NJ heavily relies on phone calls that are made via his website which ranks well locally. As ranking well on mobile for such businesses is a matter of utmost importance we were concerned about how all the HD images on the website is going to impact the search results and consulted client to offer users a mobile optimized version of his portfolio which does not compromise the load speed.
Google on other hand, is not quite sure as to how to deal with Speed Factor when it comes to mobile due to signal strength being one of the deciding factor when it comes to such cases.
Get rid of those annoying App-interstitials (please!)
We covered the details about this update in a blogpost that we did here. If you are forcing your customers to install an app instead of directing them to mobile version of your website you are not doing it right.
Especially with the announcement of Android Instant Apps. It makes sense to cross pollinate your content & invest in a mobile responsive version of your website alongside having an app.
What about Backlinks? How would they work for Mobile First Index?
It’s time to address the elephant in the room – the backlinks. Google has always had a biased view on how they treat backlinks for such updates. There is chatter on webmaster forum that a lot of website owners are now considering building a safe link profile for their mobile first content to ensure that its crawl well. On the other hand this is what Google had to say about backlinks and Mobile First Index:-
How will Mobile First Index and Voice Search dance together?
With most smartphones now coming equipped with voice search assistants as well as Google baking in voice search into its mobile version a lot of things are bound to change.
More users are now using Voice Search Assistants to look for a local business that has something to offer them. This trend it fairly new and we believe is going to be the next big thing once Mobile First index takes over.
Optimizing your website content for semantically correct keywords is going to become increasingly important. If your website has a content that is going to address the questions behind your offering then the only thing to focus is external backlinks from high authority websites that veto this content for those ‘question based searches’.
Where is this going?
Moving on, there are some recent updates that we would like to share with you regarding the mobile-first update.
It gives a lot of time for webmasters and SEO Industry to work together and prepare well in advance for this update so that once it takes over there is no negative impact on the traffic. Prioritizing & opting for a mobile first search marketing strategy however would now be a regular norm for most businesses that wish to stay ahead on Google.